Service of Second Careers Started Later in Life

December 11th, 2017

Categories: Careers, Food, Radio, Retail, Second Career



Folks are living–and remaining vigorous and creative–much longer than before and are reinventing themselves after award-winning careers, sometimes doing both at once. Here are three inspiring examples.

The Voice of Radio

Len Berman

I listen to “Len Berman in the Morning” on WOR 710 radio. Len made a name for himself as a beloved TV sportscaster before he hung up his mic for a few years. Three years ago he launched a radio program to wake up the NYC metro area with a partner.

He’s the star now in a tough market, a flourishing generalist–and a gentleman–in a medium that is his to dominate with his guest co-hosts sharing thoughtful, funny, honest—but not disrespectful—fast-paced commentary.

He mentioned on-air the other morning that although he’d been offered another sports TV gig when he left NBC, he didn’t accept it. He must have been waiting for something new and exciting—and certainly challenging given the punishing length and time of the show, 6 to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Since becoming the principal player, he seems to be having a wonderful time.

 Fitting Furniture

Michael Miller in the American Fine Craft Show Brooklyn Museum booth

I first met Alexandra and Michael Miller at my client’s American Fine Craft Show at the Brooklyn Museum where they exhibited furniture. Before I saw their whimsical tables and sideboards in person, I’d worked with images of their work that they describe as “handcrafted furniture featuring marquetry and inlay to create imaginative visual stories.” These hinted that the Millers were hip 30-something designer-artisans. They are the former–hip–but not the latter. Before launching Everyman Works, LLC two years ago, they designed and sold prints for packaging, illustration, interior décor and textiles around the world.

So where did furniture fit the picture? “Our decision to open the business came from the outcome of an injury,” said Alexandra. “Michael was convalescing and bored with reading and jigsaw puzzles. He decided to do a bit of marquetry, something he’d enjoyed as a boy. Having made the piece, the idea of applying it to a small table took hold and when it was finished, we both knew there was the germ of a good idea in front of us. Using a contemporary approach to an ancient craft was intriguing.

“We didn’t always dream about doing this; we never thought we could do it better than anyone else; and we were pretty certain we wouldn’t make a lot of money! However, the desire to create is deeply entrenched in us both. Our imaginations and design abilities are, as yet, no less diminished due to age – so why not use them,” said Alexandra.

“Our friends and colleagues were at first astonished and then supportive; our family incredulous and then anxious! They asked ‘Why, are you doing something so risky at this time in your lives?’”

As to the future of their business, they hope “that everyone would have a piece of Everyman Works furniture in their homes!!!” Alexandra added, “Seriously, we hope to keep designing to our own truth; encourage others to view furniture differently; and to make enough money to remain independent for as long as possible.”

Fudge Sauce for Thought

Francine Ryan

Francine Ryan founded “Francine’s Outrageous Fudge Sauce” in October. She continues to be president/CMO of The Ryan Group, a thriving enterprise which she describes as “Not an ad agency. A solutions agency.”

For a decade Francine gave the sauce–she created the recipe–to clients as a holiday gift. She now sells it at high end venues such as the Golden Goose Gala in Garden City, N.Y. and the Monmouth Conservation Foundation holiday event in N.J. There India Hicks, Princess Diana’s bridesmaid, former model and owner of a lifestyle brand, was one of her many customers. (Hicks later posed happily with a spoonful of sauce for posting on Instagram and purchased the sauce to take with her to England – perhaps to serve at dinner with her godfather, Prince Charles?) “Once potential customers get a taste, 75 to 90 percent will buy a jar,” Francine said.

Francine Ryan, left, with India Hicks

The business is a family and friends affair. “One son in law signed me up for an LLC; a dear friend is trademarking the name; another son in law is building a website, a son and daughter work on sales and marketing and my husband, who named it, designed the label and is contributing the creative for the website.”

Her friends were enthusiastic with one exception, a fellow in the food business. He asked: “Why are you doing this at this stage of your life?” She replied: “Why not?”

Another, who dresses some of NYC’s most prestigious retail windows said “What an incredible idea,” admitting that she was jealous and also wants to do “something that’s mine.” A grateful recipient of the sauce agreed with the second friend and reminded Francine that Stonewall Kitchens, now owned by Heinz, was started by two men selling blueberry preserves at fairs in Maine. A former editor of a major magazine said “It is absolutely fabulous and I’m not putting it on ice cream or anything else except my tongue.”

It’s far too soon in the life of this fledgling business for Francine to predict far into its future. For now she envisions applying for certification so she can sell at Farmer’s Markets in upscale environs, at more events, and perhaps at select retailers where customers can taste the sauce on ice cream. She’s also looking into a local commercial kitchen to produce more jars from bigger vats. Currently she produces 100/day. Want to order a bottle or two? Call 917-796-7586 or email

This successful marketer of sophisticated products and concepts glows like an ingénue when she watches the reactions of people tasting the sauce. “It’s the best feeling in the world when only you can make something that people are mad for. I can continue as long as I want to; I love stirring the vats and having my family involved.”

Do you have a dream second career in the back of your mind at a time you might otherwise be considering hanging up your work gloves? Can you share the names of others who have similarly ventured into uncharted waters?

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7 Responses to “Service of Second Careers Started Later in Life”

  1. Len Berman Said:

    Len wrote in an email: Thanks Jeanne. This is so nice of you.

    Have a great holiday,

  2. Lucrezia Said:

    I’m no Grandma Moses, so the answer is no. A second career would involve years of schooling for starters. That said, a hearty “Hurrah” for those able to make something positive out of past experience…..along with a toast to Grandma Moses!

  3. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I agree–I admire Len, Francine, Alexandra and Michael. Watching a new business grow is a little like listening for a penny or stone that you drop in a well. You hope you hear it and that it makes a big splash and the anticipation is exciting.

    These four are off to a tremendous start and each offer a topnotch product–all good signs.

  4. Lucan Said:

    Your thoughtful look at several successful examples of second careers chosen by individuals in various walks of life caused a fit of, I think, basically healthy introspection. None know us better than we do ourselves, yet how often do we really think through decisions as important as what our life work should be?

    I’ve worked in diverse, quite different fields. Apart from a couple of years of compulsory military service, my first real job was in a profession that I thought I knew all about, one in which I was sure I could perform well. I did indeed have an interesting assignment, but one’s workplace circumstances do change over time. As I did not, I was lucky to get out in one piece. The next job I took was in a field I knew little about. (I think I was hired largely because I was honest enough to admit it and that I had no idea what I was being employed to do.) Again, luckily, I had been in the right place at the right time. I did well. The work here too was challenging, and, while uncomfortably full of the “Perils of Pauline,” fairly rewarding. When that job ended abruptly and forever, I was just over fifty. I was now launched full born naked on a half shell into the “second career” phase of professional life about which you are writing.

    Thanks to friends, from then on, I did odd jobs from outside directorships to real estate development and litigation. Apart from paying for food and shelter, these were made more than tolerable by the innate quality of character and integrity of my overseas client base. I even tried out during these years a couple of entrepreneurial ideas, most of which ended up as financial disasters. (The pros will tell you that is what happens with most such ideas.) I should have known better.

    Looking back on this professional life history, as I did in the context of your blog post, I now realize where I went wrong. In hindsight, my wrong choice at that “fork in the road” is startlingly obvious, and I took it when I was just 21 and too immature to think through my options carefully. My career would have been quite different had I taken it, and I might even have accomplished something useful.

  5. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Thoughtful comment, though couched in enough fuzzy references as to leave us all guessing. I wonder what you think that you should have done when you were 21….

    I swerved off the path in my late 30s when I founded Delivered Delicacies, a good idea that was underfunded and in the wrong market, but aside from that…..I picked up from Manhattan and delivered to Brooklyn Heights, at the time a desert when it came to food, goodies from the best purveyors of bread, prepared food, pasta, desserts, cheese etc. In a tiny way it was a precursor of Fresh Direct.

    The businesses in this post have much more going for them.

  6. Francine Ryan Said:


    Thank you for grouping my Outrageous Fudge Sauce business with such accomplished and resourceful individuals! All the things I’ve done in my career so far, along with the passion I have for making something extraordinary, are helping and driving me.

    It’s exhilarating and fun!

    I appreciate your telling my story in such a clear and engaging way.


  7. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Many people have business ideas in the backs of their minds. Not all have the supportive resources that you do to help a launch or the talents that you all have to be able to successfully roll over into a different métier.

    In addition, you all have enthusiasm on your side.

    I hope that reading about such examples might inspire others to take the plunge at any age. I don’t regret founding Delivered Delicacies [mentioned in a comment to Lucan] when I did–I learned plenty from the experience.

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